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Opus bikes to enter U.S.

Published March 29, 2012

Editor's note:The following article appears in the March 15 issue of Bicycle Retailer & Industry News.

By Lynette Carpiet

MONTRÉAL, Quebec—Up until a year ago, David Bowman was pretty content with Opus Bikes’ domestic sales. Last year, sales of Opus bikes were up 36 percent in Canada, where 150 shops stock and sell the brand. And bookings are up again this year, said Bowman, president of the Canadian bike brand with headquarters in Montréal.

But the success Opus saw in the first year with a new Japanese distributor got Bowman thinking.

“We’ve done fairly well out of the gate,” Bowman said about sales in Japan. “We started thinking that perhaps it is time to consider a more coherent international strategy instead of waiting for people to contact us. We decided we needed to hire someone to do an assessment and let us know what markets to focus on. The U.S., because it’s close to us, we get quite a few inquiries from dealers and consumers.”

Chris Dimmick came on board in November to lead the company’s expansion outside of Canada as director of international sales. Dimmick, who previously led international sales for Lake Cycling shoes, said the focus for 2012 is to plant the seeds for expansion into the U.S. market, with a full rollout and brand launch of 2013 bikes to dealers at Interbike in September.

But he will hit the road starting in March, exhibiting at consumer shows in key urban markets including Portland, Oregon’s PDX Bicycle Show in late March and New York’s New Amsterdam Bicycle Show in April. At both shows he will have 25 to 30 bikes on display, primarily Opus’ urban and kids’ models. “The kids’ bikes and urban line is what we’re going to lead with in the U.S., where we see growth opportunities,” Dimmick said.

Opus is the house bike brand of Outdoor Gear Canada, one of Canada’s largest distributors. In business for 34 years, OGC launched the Opus bike brand 12 years ago. OGC had distributed Specialized, Proflex, Gary Fisher and LeMond bikes in Canada in the ’80s and ’90s, but Bowman felt the company had the base of knowledge and experience to design and produce bikes to better meet the needs of the domestic market.

Opus first launched with six models of road bikes. Now it offers 80 different models, from kids’ bikes all the way up to $6,000 carbon fiber road. The company assembles all bikes above $1,000 at its Montréal production facility; all bikes under $1,000 are made overseas.

Dimmick, who’s based in Chicago, said the company is in no hurry, so his approach in the U.S. will be slow and measured. While in Portland and New York for the consumer shows, he will spend a few days visiting local shops. This summer he will knock on dealer doors and meet with local reps. “We have not planned for any inventory for the U.S. market in 2012,” he said. “In targeted markets we want to supply dealers if we can but in a very limited scope. We will have a full line available for 2013.”

Some of what makes Opus’ kids bikes distinct are that they’re all made of aluminum, all come with hand brakes—down to the 12-inch BeeBike run-bike model—and they are generally higher spec, which makes them a bit pricier. Its kids’ bikes range in price from $175 to $700.

“Last year Canadian dealers were initially apprehensive of the price, but dealers who brought our bikes in did very well with them and we sold out of them,” Bowman said.

Opus’ urban line offers more than 20 bikes ranging in price and features from performance hybrids with carbon forks and disc brakes to European-inspired bikes with full fenders and front racks as well as internally geared and electric options. Prices range from $400 to $900.

The best-selling category for Opus is road, but its fastest-growing segments are urban and kids’ bikes, Bowman said.

Topics associated with this article: From the Magazine

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